Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why? Misplaced your keys? Forgotten what you ate earlier in the day? In the moment, memory loss confusion is sometimes easy to shrug off, because it seems harmless enough. However, for seniors, these lapses could signify the initial stages of dementia. Mere moments of forgetting shift from being harmless to a cause for concern.
Recently, Preventing Chronic Disease published a study on memory loss. This study differs from the thousands of others in that it looks more deeply into when and why seniors report memory loss. In fact, only one in four individuals over the age of forty-five discussed memory issues with their physicians. For some, memory loss is a normal part of aging, but for others it is indicative of dementia. For them, failing to report memory loss can lead to delayed treatment and worsened conditions.
Why People Fail to Report Memory Loss
1. Memory Loss is Scary
While it may just be a normal sign of aging, memory loss may also indicate the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer's. For seniors who have already seen loved ones and friends struggle with memory loss, their own may be difficult to accept. Rather than report and have to face a discouraging diagnosis, some choose to dismiss the memory loss. While this mmLearn.org caregiver video focuses specifically on Alzheimer's and dementia, its tips and information can help a caregiver broach the topic of memory loss with their patient.
2. Memory Loss is Easy to Dismiss
People of all ages and of all backgrounds suffer from lapses in memory. Forgetting is such a common occurrence that in 2014 the Wall Street Journal published an article about why people misplace their keys, wallets, and phones so frequently. Losing small items and forgetting necessities is a trait of being human. Since people of all ages forget from time to time, seniors may dismiss memory loss as normal.
As memory loss becomes more frequent, seniors may make additional excuses. Mild memory loss is a normal part of aging, however seniors sometimes use aging to explain away increased forgetting. Since memory loss is "normal," seniors may not report any changes to a physician.
3. Memory Loss is Stigmatized
Memory loss has many negative associations. Seniors know that memory loss can lead to a loss of independence. Needing more help and support in daily activities can be embarrassing and initially difficult to accept. However, acknowledging the memory loss and reporting can be the first step for improved health and quality of life.
Why Report Memory Loss?
Reporting can allow a doctor to diagnose the cause of the memory loss. According to Dr. Bruce Polsky, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Winthrop University Hospital, some medications can improve mild memory loss associated with Alzheimer's when diagnosed early.
When Should Memory Lapses be Reported?
Reporting can make the difference in a patient's quality of life.
Any changes to a senior's memory should be reported, no matter how small. This does not mean reporting every time a senior loses her keys. It means noticing when they forget something they have never forgotten before or are forgetting things more frequently.
Notifying a physician means that she can pay more attention to changes in memory in the future. Even if it turns out that the memory loss was a one-time blip, that the brain made a singular mistake, at least there is peace of mind. If it turns out that the memory loss is indicative of dementia, the physician knows early on and can help the patient.
Early reporting and frequent updates can allow a physician to develop a plan to attend to the matter.
Lifestyle Changes to Aid Memory
Changes in diet and vitamins can help aid memory in some patients.
Certain lifestyle changes may aid in memory maintenance. According to Web M.D., daily exercise, a balanced diet, and vitamins can help combat memory loss in the elderly.
They also state that acquiring a new skill may improve memory. mmLearn.org, published a blog post on using brainteasers to help sustain memory. These brainteasers are a fun way to spend time with a patient, but also help improve brain function.
Quality of Care Makes a Difference
Memory loss can be difficult to confront. It is necessary for caregivers and patients to acknowledge memory loss in order to approach solutions and next steps. After a doctor's diagnosis, quality care is necessary.
Caregivers have many responsibilities. Caring for an individual suffering from new or worsened memory loss increases the burden of those responsibilities and the accompanying stress. mmLearn.org offers a caregiver video to help provide tips and answer questions relating to memory care. This video, along with daily mental exercise and small lifestyle changes, can help to ease these concerns.
mmlearn.org offers a large library of free videos for caregivers, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmLearn videos an essential tool for all of your caregiver training needs. Access our free online caregiver videos